Maintenance and Efficiency Strategies for ProductivityMon, 10/21/2013 - 12:39
Because mining companies lack control over market prices for the metals and minerals that they produce, they must control their profit margins in the only way they can - by improving the efficiency of their operations to minimize cost. Inefficient production processes, dilapidated machinery and outdated technology inevitably put pressure on a company’s profits, the strain of which is particularly apparent at a time when mineral and metal prices are dropping, whilst operating costs have increased. Metso Corporation’s main objective is helping its customers to improve efficiency and ultimately productivity through a portfolio of products that improve the grinding, milling, screening, and transportation of minerals in the mining industry. The company has worked with some of the country’s biggest mining companies, such as Grupo Mexico, Minera Frisco, and Fresnillo, offering its portfolio of integrated solutions to help streamline their systems and processes, thus boosting production. Leif Lindholm, President of Metso Mexico, says that through its ‘fixed production cost’ structure, the company creates its own incentives to deliver the most impactful and efficient solutions for its clients.
Metso Mexico installs and, through service contracts, conducts inspections of its customers’ machinery with the aim of preventing breakdowns. The concept of preventative maintenance is increasingly adopted in the mining industry, although mining companies sometimes require convincing in order to see its longer term financial benefits. “Preventative maintenance is often considered to be a cost, and in order to persuade our customers about the merits of preventative maintenance we need to present the figures, as well as concrete arguments for the outsourcing of this activity to a service contractor. A breakdown in a mine site nowadays represents a cost of many thousands of dollars an hour; in the end, the cost of replacing a spare part or a machine is nothing compared to the cost of downtime and loss of production,” Lindholm states.
Metso Mexico relies on its international expertise to creating the machinery and solutions that can most effectively increase efficiency, as well as its broader corporate technology and innovation program. Through its Process, Technology and Innovation (PTI) team, Metso conducts research internationally in order to enhance and improve its systems. “As a part of our PTI division we have a system which audits the whole mining process, all the way from the blasting stage to the production of the final product. We can increase production from 5% to as much as 30%, just by improving the process, while using the same equipment,” says Lindholm. This increase in system efficiency lowers the energy intensity of production for its customers, and since power is one of the biggest costs for mining companies this provides the opportunity to radically reduce energy costs as well as the environmental impact of mining operations. Metso also helps mining companies to reduce their water consumption through a water filtration system that not only recycles water, but also filters out chemicals that are hazardous to the environment.
Gaining an understanding of every process in a customer’s operations is critical in identifying the areas of the process that can be optimized. A good example of Metso’s success in this area is its collaboration with Grupo Mexico on the restoration of the Buenavista del Cobre mine in Cananea. Metso worked with Grupo Mexico to bring the mine back into operation after it had been closed for three years, resulting in much of the machinery being destroyed or missing parts or cables. “The first thing we did was to send 150 people to Sonora to look at the machinery, assess what needed to be done, clean up and help to get the mine started. This step by step process took about 10 months,” explains Lindholm. The collaboration proved fruitful, and Metso continued to work with Grupo Mexico on the expansion of the mine, supplying and servicing its crushing and grinding machinery, mills, pumps, and feeders. Metso is currently in the process of opening a new service hub in Cananea, which will serve the Buenavista del Cobre mine as well as the many other mines that operate in the region. The aim of the service hub is to bring Metso Mexico’s services closer to its mining clients, many of which are based in that northwesternmost region of Mexico. This will improve the company’s services to the mining industry, in the same way that the company’s service hub in Chile has for the Antofagasta region. The role of the hub is to service the company’s products through a workshop for the repair and replacement of rubber coverings, pumps, screens, and smaller equipment, though larger equipment will still be repaired on site, because of the cost of moving it into the workshop. Lindholm is confident about the opportunities that suppliers like Metso provide for manufacturers that are based in Mexico. Apart from mill linings and some manufacturing that is currently done through Mexican sub-suppliers, Metso currently sources its products from abroad. However, the company is looking for opportunities to increase the proportion of its products being manufactured inside Mexico. “In the coming years we aim to start manufacturing big steel structures and components locally. We are not investing in our own plant, but in sub-supplying. As up to 90% of the equipment used in Mexico’s mining industry is imported, both mining companies and suppliers like us face a big challenge. By manufacturing equipment with sub-suppliers, Metso Mexico will hopefully create an interesting opportunity for greater development throughout the mining industry’s local supply chain,” says Lindholm.